RetroArch Hard to Learn for Newbies?

When I bring up Retroarch lot of people just Complain how Confusing its to setup and that stops them using it.

I did find it at the very Start it was Hard to Understand but I was lucky to find someone on Reddit who Helped me understand it. Mostly reading the Documents and I learned about it and I found it was easy after that.

Does anyone else found the same thing?

It doesn’t act like other programs, so people often find it unintuitive, and the large number of options can be daunting. :man_shrugging:


It’s something you’ll get used to in a few days using it.

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Not sure I know what you mean here. Why is it Different to other Programs?

Things like the retropad abstraction, or not using standard GUI toolkits (this is diminished some by desktop/WIMP UI, but many people still don’t even know it exists; it’s especially an issue on mobile platforms).

For me it was very confusing at first. After much study in the forum and YouTube, I now consider the best emulation platform that exists.

However, I still confuse the mapping of buttons by not having a picture of the joystick to guide the user.

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Yes. I think Ludo has a lot of potential as an easier to use alternative to full RA.

That was the main thing at the start that Confused me was the Buttons and what did what

i think it can be confusing, but how to solve it? the constraints are: must be naviable via a controller, and must contain all the options it currently does (i think one could argue that some could be retired or relegated to .cfg only). i think the ‘advanced’ options being hidden by default was a good start.

need confident UX and UI designers to join the team. but even then, UI/UX is hard - even global companies regularly fail at it.

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The RetroArchGo for me fills a need I had when working with a rootless, low-powered Android device… and Android devices in general… I found I always spent too much time on Android setting things up and then not enough time to game (at least for me)

I think the real issue, how to best tackle rootless Android devices as a platform? I bet you’ll hear no complaints from Linux users regarding RetroArch use :joy: So are the complaints isolated to mobile users only? Maybe RetroArch mobile needs a desktop companion app to facilitate mobile setup? So instead you could put your effort into the companion app and it syncs to your mobile device. Then, people with the same mobile device can share their “presets” for best configs. I dunno, just spitballing here :rofl:

Anyways, I have newfound respect for the RetroArch dev team (especially after digging into the source code…)

Well done!


It would probably help if there was like a downloadable manual released every update or so that explained all the options with pictures and so forth. The internal help simetimes doesn’t give a full explanation of certain features…


A manual would greatly help, but well explained videos on the LibRetro YouTube channel would be even better.

PS: I’m a Windows user and everyone I recommend RetroArch uses Windows as well.

I never found it very difficult but I am a tech head. When I’m really interested in something I play around with it. Honestly though I don’t think I would have known what run ahead was unless I saw its conception being discussed here. For people not at all in the emulation scene using already setup apps like Happy Chick or something everything is daunting. I set my brother’s PC up with RetroArch and he still finds it cumbersome to operate. What I like about RA is that it can be as no nonsense as you want it to be which is the way I use it. I don’t use the extents of the front end with setting up all the game lists and box arts. I go to load content and browse to the game I want to play and play it. I don’t use shaders or fancy boarders. I turn bilinear filtering off and enjoy the crispiness that my actual consoles can never give me.

That being said there aren’t many good tutorials on You Tube on how to actually setup RetroArch. I’m planning on doing my own for setting up RA on an Android phone and going through many key features that make RA special and point out adjustments and cores to improve performance if the device you’re using is having issues. People always ask me how I’m playing old console games on my phone with an XBOX One controller. I’d like to have something that I can point them to.


The only thing about youtube videos is that it can be hard to get to the exact thing you have a question about. I don’t want to watch a whole video when a manual can show me precisely what it is I’m looking for and give a detailed explanation. Not knocking videos, they have their place, just sayin’.

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The biggest issue we have with providing manuals is that it would be hundreds of pages long, and someone has to write all of those pages. I suppose we could do a site-to-pdf dump of the docs site, but I don’t think anyone really wants that, either.

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That works for you but not everyone would be able to understand and learn from a Menu.

I find I learn better from a Video then Reading Manual/Instruction’s

It took me a long time to get my head around input mapping. I’m still not great at it. There are also so many unfamiliar terms but I am not a veteran gaming/emulation enthusiast.

IMO RetroArch is easy enough but like any complex program it’s just complex. You can’t bundle dozens of programs and 10’s of thousands of game differences into an “easy” bit of software. The devs do a pretty awesome job.

Creating manuals/videos etc just takes hundreds of hours and there’s limited helpers.

The docs website has progressed massively over the last year or 2.


For newbies to emulation in general it’s still better than a lot of the standalones out there simply because a lot of outdated info exists out in the open. For me I feel like RA is actually beneficial to newbies, and XMB interface is really nice to use (I always was a fan of the PS3 UI anyway but that’s not the point).